I’ve quoted my good friend Pearl here before: she says the secret to a happy marriage and a happy life is having zero expectations. She claims that lowering expectations isn’t enough. You’ve got to have NO expectations at all. I love this wisdom from Pearl (yes, that’s her real name!). But sometimes it’s hard to apply.
For example, my son, Will, has an injured hand which resulted from a run-in with a light fixture he’d previously broken with a tennis racket while practicing serving in his room. Anyway, the injury required many stitches, one of which is to the tendon attaching the arm to the hand. The trip to the ER was the first day of Christmas vacation, and the hand surgeon who sowed him up first said it would be six to eight weeks to return to basketball. But then after he finished stitching it up, he said it wasn’t that bad and that maybe he’d clear him to play in three weeks. Needless to say, when I took Will for his follow-up on Wednesday, he was expecting to get the green light for sports. Instead the surgeon said, “well, the literature says the repair is weakest at the three week mark.” And since I’m married to a doctor who advocates for evidence-based medicine as part of his job, that means our son ain’t returning to hoops this week, at least not without his brace the way he’d hoped. The way he’d expected.
This kind of divergence of expectations and reality is often the source of disappointment. Perhaps you’ve had occasion to witness this? Like maybe Christmas morning? Maybe New Year’s Eve? Maybe Valentine’s Day? Maybe practically everyday of your life in some small way? We can try to manage expectations. We can even try to live without them, There is wisdom in both, but it only reduces the problem. We can never eliminate disappointment.
What we can do is change our perspective. What do you think I told my son about not playing basketball this weekend? The same thing you’d probably tell someone you love.
I said, “I’m sorry, Buddy. I really am. I’m disappointed too. But God has a plan, and you need to be thankful that it is healing, that the wound itself looks great. We need to remember that it could’ve been much worse.”
And it may not happen right in that moment for a thirteen-year-old. He might stay mad and discouraged and crushed for a little while, but over time, gratitude changes everything. You cannot be truly grateful for what you have and hold onto bitterness at the same time. Grateful hands just get too dang slippery to hold their grip on grievances. That’s how God designed it. Colossians 3:15-17 says:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We were called to peace, called to give thanks. May I have wisdom in managing expectations, but most of all may I model peace and gratitude for my sons each and every day.